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Travel Diary: Black Day In Korea

Happy Black Day, everyone!

Ok, so maybe that doesn’t sound like the best greeting because “Black Day” sounds kind of depressing, but actually the holiday’s meant to be a little bit sarcastic  — in a fun way — and light-hearted. It’s a holiday in Korea that’s like the antidote to Valentine’s Day.

To celebrate, singles get together to talk about being single and eat jajangmyeon — a traditional noodle dish served with black bean sauce that’s usually mixed with veggies and meat or seafood, and topped with sliced cucumbers.

In Korea, Valentine’s Day is celebrated slightly differently from how we celebrate it. On this day, girls usually give chocolate or a gift to their love interest or significant other. A month later on March 14, White Day is celebrated, when boys are expected to gift back. (I remember when I used to work in corporate Korea, I would find little sweet treats at my desk from male coworkers!)

A month after that, April 14th (today), they have “Black Day,” when all the singles out there eat jajangmyeon. You can eat it alone or with friends to bond over being … single. So freaking sarcastic and awesome — I love it.

SIDE TANGENT: I remember one particular Valentine’s Day when I was single and in Korea, my friends and I went to dinner and hired a guy to come give tarot guy readings while we ate (yes, it’s so random but Korean people love having their futures read to them via tarot cards!) In my reading, he told me I would never find love in Seoul and that I had to leave right away! Let’s just say that he was completely wrong: I met Dave a few months later! – END TANGENT –

When this year’s Valentine’s Day actually rolled around, I was in Seoul. Dave, my valentine, and Rambo, my poodle, were back home in New York, so it was just me on my lonesome. It seemed right that I go shopping in the Dongdaemun district to seek out jajangmyeon at the Doota department store cafeteria. Attached or single, jajangmyeon makes you feel better.

To eat, just mix the noodles with black bean sauce using your chopsticks, and dig right in. The noodles are chewy, and the sauce is the right amount of sweet and salty. I pair each bite with kimchi or pickled radish for a tangy contrast. Delish.

I love getting messy with this dish, which is great because it’s incredibly difficult not to look like a total slob when eating this. The black bean sauce gets everywhere!

Here’s a little background for you on jajangmyeon: This dish is actually a Korean version of a popular Chinese dish calledzhajiangmian. I read that from the 1800s to 1900s when Korea was actively trading with China, many Chinese workers from the Shandong province were docked at the port city of Incheon (where South Korea’s largest airport is today). Because they wanted the taste of zhajiangmian from back home, these Shandong workers would bring a black sauce they made in China to Korea.

Due to the demand for this flavor, Chinese restaurants in Korea started to make their own version and jajangmyeonwas born. It’s much sweeter than the original dish I tried in China, but the sweet taste grew in popularity and is a staple in Korea.

 

And I have to say, jajangmyeon was a great pick-me-up for my lone Valentine’s Day. I know, it wasn’t exactly Black Day, but I promise they taste great all year round. Obviously, nothing beats being with my two loves, but jajangmyeon made my day a little bit sweeter, or at least a little bit more savory.

My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

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